Throughout the past in this space, we’ve talked about COVID scams, tax fraud and other financial-related scams that could have a major impact on your family’s personal bottom line should you – or anyone in your household – fall victim to them. But there’s a new emerging financial-related threat that has the potential to be quite harmful as well – and that’s the possibility of purchasing a flood-damaged vehicle.
Due to the global chip shortage and high cost of new vehicles, more and more Americans are looking to used and pre-owned vehicles for their next car purchases. But buyer beware: It’s estimated that nearly 400,000 flood-damaged cars are already on the road, and there’s likely to be a bigger surge in the days following Hurricane Ida’s destruction throughout the Gulf Coast and the havoc its remnants wreaked on the East Coast. What’s more is that many fraudsters will sell vehicles without this flood damage even being disclosed.
This is bad news for buyers. While a vehicle’s history is supposed to be made available to any potential buyer upon their request, a failure to disclose flood damage can make for some very unpleasant surprises later on in vehicle ownership. Water damage has a tendency to destroy electronics, lubricants and even the mechanical systems in cars. And while vehicles can be properly dried and restored to a pre-loss condition, someone trying to pull the wool over a consumer’s eyes isn’t necessarily interested in carrying this out.
So how can a buyer make sure they’re getting a quality used vehicle? Here’s a look at some tips to follow:
- Check the vehicle history report: Services such as Carfax and VINCheck allow prospective buyers to look up a vehicle’s history by their VIN number. Doing so can help identify recalls, registrations, warranty claims, and theft and insurance coverage throughout a vehicle’s history. But just because issues don’t show up in the history report doesn’t mean that there aren’t major issues. Follow the rest of these tips too.
- Look for signs of red flags: If the history report checks out OK, look for other signs. Musty odors, stained or dampened upholstery, rusting, moisture in the interior lights and debris in the glovebox are all things to look out for. We also suggest having a mechanic that you trust inspect the used vehicle before making your purchase to identify any potential problems. And always be sure to test drive any vehicle you’re considering.
- If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably because it is. If you think you’re getting a great deal, you may want to think again. Trust your instincts on things, especially when it comes to larger life purchases like new cars. Even if you’re eyeing the vehicle in an area far away from any well-documented flooding, keep in mind that fraudsters will commonly move vehicles far away from their origin to sell them, usually in places with less stringent titling regulations.